It is difficult not t be disappointed in our current State Government with their horrific budget cuts to our State Tafe Colleges, with Ballarat University and South West Institute of Tafe suffering terrible blows. Ballarat University Tafe has slashed their arts programs, Graphic Design being the only course to survive the cull.
I spent my best student years at Ballarat University Tafe in the Diploma of Arts ‘Visual Arts’ My home town has no Art Department at the local Tafe Campus, but in 1998 due to the popularity of a short course in drawing offered in the previous year, a group of local artists petitioned Tafe to offer some units of the Visual Arts Diploma here. I mean hounded really, I think that they gave in to get rid of us in the end! Our classes were held at the local Guide Hall and the first year two units of 1st year Drawing and two units of Life Drawing, followed on the next year, two units 2nd year Drawing was taught. We were so lucky Graham Brindley would be one of the best drawing teachers in Victoria. Graham put so much effort and his own time into our class plans and was very big on teaching different media and technique. All 'Grist for the Mill' as Graham called it which I still oldly think about often. One of the things about studying with different lecturers is that they all have their own different interests, styles and artists whom they admire. I will always be grateful to Graham for introducing me to the work of Käthe-Kollwitz who I consider to be one of the greatest female artists of the 20th Century. And Andre Sollier, whom I met at his Satsuma Dojo many years later. I learned so much in those classes and came away with folios of work, many full journals, and much 'Grist for the Mill' The following two years Graham took us through 1st and 2nd year painting.
1st year printmaking was with Tina Fitzgerald. Although Tina majored in printmaking her current interest was in textiles, running a screen printing business from her home. A busy mum with 3 very young girls, sometimes we would all pitch in at lunchtime and help Tina sew here next amazing creation. Graham encouraged me to let Coen draw in my journals, he was only one year old when I began. Tina took us up to Horsham to the art department for a day to print some tea towels, so Coen ended up with some of his art to give away as Christmas presents that year. Following years were at Horsham Campus with Ewen Ross. 1 year of Material Studies and a ‘Major Study’ in Painting, which was a 12 hour a week subject. There was much celebrating at that time, as former student Marcus Wills was announced as the winner of the Archibald Portrait Prize, the largest prize in the arts in Australia.
Coen was too young in the beginning to leave and Horsham too far away to make use of the studio’s which I always found disappointing at the time, as you can get a lot more work done when you are not distracted at home by domestic life that can be a full time distraction. Being enrolled and attending weekly classes keeps you motivated and producing a lot more than I find possible to do now at home. All up I did 7 years of on campus study, If I was an enrolled student living in the same town as the art department I would be free to go there 5 days a week during school hours now, imagine how productive that would be. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to do parts of the ‘Visual Arts Diploma’ as once these courses close the chances of them being reinstated later is very slim. Living in regional areas with low populations has many limits to certain opportunities and once again it seems like these areas are forgotten. So where will people go now to upgrade their skills or seek vocational training? Hospitality coursed have closed as well, this leaves no opportunity to seek work in the tourism industry that much of this area relies on, with some kind of experience behind you. I spent 18 hard years in hospitality and training people when you are so busy yourself is really difficult. Does this mean that traineeships as in on the job training will be the future?